The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely mine and not connected in anyway to the United States Peace Corps.


soul searching

So backpacking around europe was not only a blast, but also a huge learning experience for me. I found out that I can basically get along with anyone i meet (except for creepers you meet the night before who turn up at the bus station the next day), i also learned that as much as i uphold the ideals of spontaneity and adventure, i'm not as adventurous as i would like to think i am--which probably ends up being the safer thing in the end. my favorite part about visiting places is not the food, or the museums, or the monuments, but the actual people i meet--those are the parts of my travels that i remember best; maybe someday i'll be able to tell you about them. My worldview has been broadened, and i do believe that in the 5 weeks i spent traveling i learnt more about myself than the rest of these 20 years combined--there is just something about traveling alone or with one other person (especially one who you didn't know so well at the beginning of the travels) that just forces you to become introspective and learn not only about your constantly changing surroundings, but about yourself. perhaps it is due to the constantly changing surroundings that you learn more about yourself.

anyway, that's the ending of my winter holiday break--took me long enough to write about, but now you are all caught up. on my life til mid January at least.


Our last 3 countries.

1/5-1/6 Slovakia--Bratislava
1/6-1/7 Czech Republic--Prague
1/7-1/11 Poland--Warsaw, Katowice

Our journey is slowly coming to a close. We stopped in Bratislava on the way to prague. seems random perhaps, but it was actually cheaper to do that than take a train straight to prague from budapest--traveling for us was mostly about finding the best deals and going to those places which made for random, but terribly exciting adventures. Bratislava really was just a place to stay, we had an interesting hostel experience, mostly because we were both feeling a bit sick so we really wanted to just stay in and sleep, while the others in our room were the typical hostel-ers, ie: party people. The fact that our hostel had a dance club in the basement should have tipped us off to the fact that we wouldn't be getting much sleep. Apparently there really isn't much to DO in Bratislava, so people go there to party--i may have to go back some day so that I can actually enjoy the city for what it has to offer. The morning of the 6th I went out to find an internet cafe, little did i realize that it was Three Kings Day. aka: everything was closed. The little old ladies in their fur-looking hats coming out of church were kind of cute though. So I just spent about an hour wandering around the town centre, stopping occasionally by the churches i would pass by to listen to the mass in Slovak. it was a nice way to end my trip to Slovakia, although i do intend to go back someday.

Prague was the next stop. We mainly went there because we had friends who were also traveling, so we thought it would be a good idea to meet up with them, even though we would see them back at Cambridge in less than 2 weeks. I really almost don't even count Prague as we got in after the sun had gone down and didn't really have time to explore the city or see . . . anything. We did have some good Czech food though.

Warsaw was interesting. mostly because of the people we met while there. Of course, we hit up the Holocaust museum, which was actually really cool (this coming from a person who normally does not like museums). It had new age type architecture which combined with the video and pictures and memorabilia from the mid 1900s gave it a very interesting feel. Warsaw was by FAR the coldest place we visited. needless to say, we really didn't do much outdoors, i think it got down to -20C. which is around -4F. very very cold. i'm glad I brought my ski jacket. it was such an amazing feeling, being in this city which i had read so much about, and learned so much about in history classes while in grade school. i think i'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that i did actually go there and walk those streets. it's kind of incredible.

Katowice was the place I was catching my ryan-air flight from, so we crashed there for a night before parting ways, I went back home to Cambridge while my traveling buddy, maylin, went on to Krakow. We manage to have fun wherever we go, and Katowice was no different. It helped that we had a friend who was kind enough to even cook us a "proper polish dinner" and show us around the town during the day, and during the night.

The flight back to Cambridge was the first flight I had ever taken by myself. i actually really enjoyed it, it's probably really silly and childish, but flying by myself made me feel very grown-up--in a very good way.


El Amor

12/30-1/2 France--Paris
1/2-1/5 Hungary--Budapest

So New Years in Paris . . . definitely not what we thought it would be. We ended up standing underneath the Eiffel Tower and waiting for something exciting to happen. It was fairly anti-climatic. The tower was kept dark until the stroke of midnight when it mildly erupted in blue lights, the huge crowd around us started shouting, "Bon Anne!" which means "good year" in French. Actually, that part was kind of cool. i guess I was expecting the huge countdown display . . . there were a few failed attempts at counting down by several random groups of people in the crowd, I guess no one had the exact time. The lighting of the tower was a bit of a surprise, and it sparkled--which is always a cool thing.

The next day Amy and I went out exploring -- we found Pere Lachaise, which is this really famous cemetery where famous people like Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Jim Morrison, Adam Smith and the like are buried. There are also some non-famous French families. in fact, there were quite a few "houses" which belonged to one family and there would be pots of their cremated remains within the "house" with the family name carved above the door. It probably sounds like a really morbid way to celebrate the first day of the new year, but we had a really great time wondering around the cemetery. and THEN we found this amazing little French bakery in the middle of nowhere (it's quite easy for us to get lost) and had some delicious pastries and rolls. the next morning we found an adorable cafe and i had a croissant and my first ever espresso--and i LIKED it! it was kind of a big moment for me since before said moment i did not like coffee without TONS of sugar and milk and chocolate. It was also a very "french" moment, or so it seemed, since we were sitting outside, sipping our coffee, chatting and watching people on the street walk by with a violinist playing on the street corner. lovely. We wondered more streets, i'm going to have to go back some day and hit up the catacombs, it was the only place i really wanted to go that i didn't make it to.

Maylin and i left the next day and went off to Budapest! I think i might be in love with eastern europe. We met up with a friend, which was really helpful since we couldn't read any of the signs and she knew a ton of really cool local places. We also saw Budapest Castle and the largest synagogue in Europe. the Budapest museum was pretty cool, as was the Budapest jazz festival that we stumbled upon the next day--the number that you actually pay might seem big, but considering that it's about 250 hungarian dollars per euro, eastern europe really is the most cost effective place to go. Hungary might be the place that we went to the most touristy areas. The best part though, was the homemade dinner our friend's parents made for us--it was so sweet of them!

more of eastern europe? how about the czech republic? i say yes.


Portuguese and Espanol

update on my current life before I go more in detail to my travels abroad this holiday break: my computer completely broke about a week ago, which really isn't why I haven't updated (I actually am that bad of a blogger), but it has been harder for me to update as i hate taking up my friend's computers. that also mean that i don't have many pictures to share (besides the ones on facebook).
On to Portugal and Spain.

Portugal--Faro, Lisbon. 12/16-12/21

My parents met me and Maylin at the airport, it really was great to see them, i don't think you ever realize how much you miss somebody until you see them again in person. Well, supposedly you're not supposed to realize how much you miss somebody until you can't see them again . . . but that usually isn't the case for me. They had rented a car which turned out to be quite handy as the place we were staying was quite far from everything else, but it was a beautiful little place that we had for the days that we were there. My dad and i went horseback riding one of the afternoons (my mom really hates horses, and Maylin wasn't to keen on getting on a horse for 4 hours, so it was just me and my dad, which was nice). The lady that was in charge of the stable was more than a little crazy. She gave me this fairly aggressive young male horse that didn't want to be behind anyone, so I had to lead! (which is probably what we get for saying that we had riding experience) and the horse would not listen to me, and didn't want to move faster then a slow walk, which was very frustrating. fast forward to 2 hours later when we trot over the sand dunes and arrive at the beach. My horse went crazy, and i got scared. just imagine galloping down the beach on top of a horse that won't listen to you when you try to get it to slow down. I eventually was able to coerce the horse into slowing down . . . but it may have officially ruined "romantic horseback rides on the beach" for me. The rest of the time in Faro was really relaxing, I did some studying and read some books for fun, which is always nice. We made a day trip to Lisbon and Maylin and I just basically walked around town since we couldn't be bothered to take the tour bus around. Portugal was nice and relaxing.

Spain--Malaga, Morocco--Tanger, 12/22-12/27

Spain was another relaxing place, there was a British store close to the place we were staying, apparently there are a bunch of Brits that go to Spain for vacation . . . Maylin and I took advantage of the close beach and sunshine and went down for some sunbathing a couple of times, I wish we had done that while in portugal as well! We took a day to go to Morocco which was really cool--though, i didn't really enjoy being part of a huge group of tourists going down the streets of Morocco. It was a really interesting experience, the country was like no place I had been before, we saw a communal stone bakery where people would bring their bread to be baked, and then come back like 2 hours later when they were done! We were also introduced to a snake charmer and traditional Moroccan lunch. It was pretty sweet. My parents had brought some canned things from home for Christmas dinner--so we had an almost traditional Christmas with stockings and green bean casserole and cranberries and such. Maylin and i were actually not very good at planning ahead, in fact after we made our plans to go to Amsterdam we kind of stopped planning (which is why we ended up getting to Portugal by going from Amsterdam to Belgium to Dublin to Portugal) since we knew that we had almost two weeks with my parents where we didn't need to plan for anything at all! anyway, once it came time to leave my parents and journey to the next part of our break we needed a way to get to Paris, since we had plans to meet up with friends for a couple days around New Years . . . but we still had a couple of days so we decided to go to Madrid! Madrid doesn't get it's own paragraph because we really didn't do much there . . . we tried Tapas and made some friends at the hostel we stayed at, we also bought a day long metro ticket and rode the metro around to different stops, like . . . Isles de Filipas! (but once we got back on the street at the stop there was literally nothing there--so we travelled on to more metro stops). Hmmmm yea .... we became very proficient at having fun without doing touristy things or spending much money. Although, the 2nd to the last day we were there we went to the Prado Museum which was amazing!!! ( and since we are students of the EU we got in for free!) Tip for traveling to Spain: they do not speak English. but we're pretty sure that they understood us, thank goodness I vaguely remembered some of the things I learned in high school spanish class.

Then, it was on to Paris. . .